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Sex Crime Allegations Against United Nations Staff Spiked in 2015

A UN report has documented an almost 25 percent rise in sexual exploitation or abuse allegations, and is calling for changes in the way perpetrators are identified and prosecuted.

by Reuters and VICE News
Mar 4 2016, 12:35pm

Un peacekeeper dell'ONU in piedi davanti alla folla a Bangui, Repubblica Centrafricana, il 28 Novembre 2015. (Photo di Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA)

Allegations of sexual exploitation or sexual abuse against United Nations (UN) staff shot up almost 25 percent across the UN system last year, with 99 new reports in 2015 compared to 80 the year before.

According to a new UN report, the majority of those allegations — 69 in all — involved personnel in 10 peacekeeping missions. The military and police personnel accused of sexual crimes while serving for the United Nations involved 21 countries, most of them African.

The report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon does not identify the nationalities of the 30 UN staff members accused of sexual abuse or exploitation who were not working for peacekeeping missions.

The report, an advance copy of which was obtained by Reuters, came in response to a new UN "name and shame" policy for UN peacekeepers implemented after a series of allegations of rape and sexual abuse by international troops in Central African Republic (CAR).

Related: French Troops Face Another Sexual Abuse Allegation in the Central African Republic

Most of the allegations involved seven peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, serving in CAR. There were also allegations against several European countries and Canada.

There were allegations against troops and police from Burundi, Germany, Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Tanzania, Slovakia, Niger, Moldova, Togo, South Africa, Morocco, Benin, Nigeria, and Gabon.

In addition to CAR, the allegations involved peacekeeping missions in places like Haiti, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ivory Coast.

The new report includes recommendations for member states to make it easier to identify suspected perpetrators and prosecute them.

It calls for the UN General Assembly and troop-contributing countries to allow prosecutions inside the countries where the alleged crimes took place and creation of a DNA registry of all peacekeepers.

Related: UN Peacekeepers May Have Sexually Abused More Girls in Central Africa

One of the problems, human rights groups say, is that it is currently up to UN troop-contributing countries to prosecute their soldiers accused of abuse. When such prosecutions happen, the groups say, they often take place quietly and it is difficult to follow up on the results and punishments, if any.

In December an independent review panel accused the United Nations and its agencies of grossly mishandling numerous allegations of child sexual abuse by foreign troops in CAR in 2013 and 2014. The following month, the UN reported it was looking into claims of sexual abuse against four more underage girls in CAR.

The idea of prosecutions in theatre would likely be unpopular among UN troop-contributing countries, UN diplomats and officials say, though they suggest it is an idea worth pursuing as a deterrent.

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